Tag Archive: dogs

  1. Canines, Cancer, and Golf Courses

    Comments Off on Canines, Cancer, and Golf Courses


    by Jo-De Davis, guest blogger 


    Jake was a gentle giant, a lanky collie mix with a plumed tail, and his best friend was Prancer, who was a small, lively shih tzu. They romped and played on our neighborhood golf course regularly. They ate the grass, rolled in the rough, and practiced being good boys by staying off of the green and the bunkers. But, after nine years of romping and rolling, they were both diagnosed with spleen cancer and eventually died from this terrible disease.

    In a recent issue,  “Golf Digest” recommended that you take your dog to the golf course. Sure, there is plenty of space to run after frisbees and chase the old groundhog that lives under the tree on the ninth hole. But, if your dog exercises frequently on the fairway, he may be accelerating his chances of developing cancer. And he may not have a mulligan in his back pocket. A commonly-used pesticide, 2,4-D, has been causally associated with malignancies in dogs. This poison is saturating local golf courses, athletic fields, landscaped yards, and even your dog park.

    For decades, scientific studies have shown correlations of topical defoliants (such as 2, 4-D) with cancer.  A six-year study by Tufts University indicated that exposure to lawn pesticides raised the risk of canine cancer as much as 70%. Publications such as the Journal of Toxicology & Environmental Health, Science of the Total Environment, and even The New York Times have substantiated this subject. Remember the notorious herbicide, Agent Orange?  2, 4-D is one of its two active ingredients. And it continues to be one of the top three pesticides sold in the nation.

    Lots of lawn and garden chemicals can wreak havoc on your four-legged family member. 2, 4-D (dichlorophenoxyacetic) acid is the most serious in risk factors. It is in Bayer, Ortho, Scott’s, and Sta-Green products. The following ingredients have also been shown to be dangerous:

    • Mancozeb
    • Chlorothalonil
    • MCPP (4-chloro-2 methylphenoxy propionic) acid

    Plastic bubbles work for hamsters, but not dogs. Please keep your dog’s environment safer and unrestricted by practicing some of the following steps:

    • Reduce the toxic load in your yard by using a natural, pest-deterrent that is chemical-free. (National Resources Defense Council’s website has plenty of suggestions.)
    • Support local initiatives to get pesticide by-laws enacted. A good place to start is by avoiding insecticides with IGRS (insect growth regulators).
    • Keep your pup on surfaces that haven’t been treated with pesticides (walkways, footpaths).
    • Your pooch’s feet and tummy are the most contaminated areas on his body. If you feel he has come into contact with deadly chemicals, give him a foot soak and rinse off his legs and belly.

    One of a dog’s finest wishes is to have a lush, green lawn or nearby grassy expanse on which she can frolic, dig, and nose about. However, dogs (at least most) don’t wear shoes and outerwear that they can change when they come home from outside play. Modify your best friend’s environment so it limits outside contaminants. Hopefully, doing this will extend her companionship for many more enjoyable years.

  2. Has Spring Finally Sprung?

    Comments Off on Has Spring Finally Sprung?

    Daffodils in Snow

    It has been a long, hard winter, hasn’t it? My kids were out of school for eleven days, usually for 1 or 2 inches of snow or a “wintry mix.” Any snow at all in Richmond is disastrous. In Goochland, one of the suburbs of Richmond, the kids missed eighteen days of school. We’ve had a few teaser days of nice weather, but it is the last week of March and we have been wearing sweaters all week. I passionately despise all of my winter clothes. I’m so sick of wearing them!

    Spring brings with it so much promise and hope. I love seeing little shoots of green here and there and buds on the trees. Baby goats, lambs and bunnies are scampering around at Maymont, our local petting zoo. People are trying to wear their spring outfits, even though it is still cold outside. Here at the FETCH office, we are gearing up for a very busy spring. We have several events in April, our big golf tournament in May, and our Gala in June. We are feeling a little overwhelmed by everything we have to do, but we are super excited to be able to participate in such great community events with our wonderful supporters. Check out our calendar of upcoming events at www.fetchacure.org. We hope to see you out and about! Look for me – I’ll be the one wearing flip-flops and a cardigan.

  3. Beyond Chemotherapy

    Comments Off on Beyond Chemotherapy

    golden retriever pup

    Beyond Chemotherapy: How Veterinary Oncologists Can Improve Outcomes and Extend Quality of Life
    By: Angharad Waite VMD, DACVIM (Oncology)
    The Oncology Service

    As a veterinary oncologist, my primary objective is to provide information to my clients about the benefits and risks associated with a cancer treatment. A principal component of this effort is to bring hope to families and to provide prolonged high quality of life to my patients who have been stricken by cancer. The primary means to deliver the best care is through a personalized review of the available clinical information for a specific patient and a discussion about the cancer, its prognosis, and the spectrum of available treatment options. It is increasingly the case that this discussion does not focus on the use of chemotherapy alone.

    A diagnosis of cancer is often obtained from a tissue section that has been submitted to a pathologist. The information provided on the pathology report can offer a wealth of information to the oncologist regarding the biologic behavior of that tumor type and what other diagnostic tests may be indicated to provide more prognostics information. Additionally, it is important to remember that the conclusions generated on the pathology report may not always be consistent with an oncologist’s experience or inclusive of the newest information available to an oncologist. With the development of advanced cellular and molecular tools, we are now able to extend the value of a pathology report and to provide additional information that is helpful and often essential to completely describe the prognosis for a given patient. This information can often provide insight into the necessity for and types of additional therapy that may be offered.

    Once a diagnosis of cancer has been obtained, there are many treatment options. We are aware that chemotherapy is a term that carries many negative connotations for pet owners. The good news is that our ability to effectively manage the risks of chemotherapy have dramatically improved. Indeed, we can now be confident in a high level of quality of life for our patients. Nonetheless we understand that chemotherapy may not be in the interest of a family or may not be relevant to the treatment of a given cancer. Therefore, a concern about chemotherapy should not be the only basis to decide on the input of a cancer specialist. For example, if a primary bone tumor is diagnosed in the limb of a dog, surgery and chemotherapy would be one treatment option. However, if surgery and chemotherapy are not elected, many options remain.

    Intravenous infusions of pamidronate, lidocaine and ketamine, and/or palliative radiation can markedly improve comfort and the ability to walk. Pamidronate is a bisphosphonate inhibitor which minimizes bone turnover (and therefore pain from the tumor destroying the bone) and is well tolerated. Palliative radiation is a short course of radiation treatment with reduced incidence of side effects and with the intent of improving comfort for the short term. In my experience, 60% of patients will respond to pamidronate and the improved comfort can be maintained for 2-6 weeks with treatments repeated as needed (often every other week). The reported response rate with pamidronate in the literature is 28-40% with pain control lasting for greater than 4 months. I have also routinely used lidocaine/ketamine infusions with pamidronate and have seen most patients show signs of improved comfort, typically within 24 hours, and this has lasted for several weeks before a repeat treatment is pursued. As such my role in improving outcomes, even in this single example, extend well beyond a focus on conventional chemotherapy.

    Progress in the field has also taken us beyond chemotherapy alone. Advances in immunotherapy and targeted cancer therapy continue to be made in human and veterinary oncology. The two immunotherapies I most commonly use are inhaled IL-2 for lung metastases and the melanoma vaccine. IL-2 has a 30% response rate in patients with pulmonary metastatic osteosarcoma. This therapy has been well-tolerated in my patients and can result in stabilization and even regression of the metastatic lesions. The melanoma vaccine has shown significant improvements in survival time in dogs with malignant melanoma. Recently, a paper published looking at canine patients with oral malignant melanoma including dogs that had spread to local lymph nodes had long survival times when surgery and the vaccine were pursued. The median disease free interval was not reached at two years in these patients. In the future, additional novel immunotherapeutic drugs will become available and will be safely integrated into the care of our patients. In the setting of targeted therapy we are now in the era of targeted small molecule inhibitors for veterinary cancer patients. Two approved agents (Palladia and Masitinib) are available and more are expected for several cancers.

    In summary my role as a veterinary oncologist extends well beyond that of chemotherapy. Changes in our field have increasingly required me to carefully review a pathological report and to consider what additional cellular and molecular tests are needed to fully define a diagnosis and prognosis. From there, my goal is to provide families with information on the specific cancer in their pet and discuss the diversity of options that can be used to treat cancer. This includes the use of chemotherapy combined with medications that successfully limit the side-effects previously seen with chemotherapy, and to include the vast numbers of new treatments from targeted radiation to immunotherapy and small molecule inhibitors into a treatment plan that meets the goals of each patient family.

  4. Common Misperceptions for Cancer Therapy in our Companion Animals

    Comments Off on Common Misperceptions for Cancer Therapy in our Companion Animals

    Golden with IV

    Common Misperceptions for Cancer Therapy in our Companion Animals
    By Dr. Monika Jankowski, DVM, DACVIM, Veterinary Emergency Specialty Center

    Cancer. It’s a word that sets off a variety of emotions in all of us. We may see characters in movies portraying severe sickness from chemotherapy treatment or know of acquaintances undergoing treatment with chemotherapy. The majority of us have perceptions regarding chemotherapy treatment in people. And naturally, this gets carried over to our companion animals. One of the most common misperceptions of cancer treatment in our pets is that chemotherapy will make them sick as it does with people. They will have extreme nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and no appetite. Another common misperception may be that all therapy takes several hours to administer. Another common misperception is that our pet’s fur will all fall out and they will become bald. Probably the biggest concern that most people have is that chemotherapy will give all pets a very poor quality of life.

    The reality is that our companion animals handle chemotherapy and chemotherapy administration very well with a very low percentage of animals becoming sick. We can see 95-97% of all cases having a completely normal lifestyle with almost no vomiting, diarrhea, or decreased appetite. In those cases where we do see some side effects, the majority of those can be symptomatically treated at home with anti-nausea or anti-diarrheal medication. There are few cases that require hospitalization.

    The majority of our treatments are delivered in a very short time span. The overall time from when these pets walk in the door, to the time they leave the facility, is generally 30 minutes or less. We use a temporary catheter to deliver these drugs into the veins, and the amount given is very small. There are some drugs that may take a little longer to give, but the overall time is still less than 30-60 minutes.

    Dogs and cats also hardly ever lose their fur. They can lose their undercoat and they can lose their whiskers, but they grow back once chemotherapy is discontinued. There are some breeds that do have hair coats similar to people. This means they have a continuous hair growth cycle. Those dogs will generally lose their hair, but it will grow back. Some breeds with continuous hair growth cycles can include Old English Sheepdogs, Poodles, and Bishons.

    The bottom line is that quality of life is the most important. We want our patients feeling well, going on hikes, playing ball, or simply being the couch potato they love to be. Our goal is to keep our pets at home with their owners and not to hospitalize them for chemotherapy side effects. We tend to achieve this goal in the majority of our cancer patients.